Network Visibility for Security

NETSCOUT’s “What and Why” series explores and explains the importance of network visibility.

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In today’s digitally connected world, where organizations rely heavily on networks for their day-to-day operations, the importance of network security cannot be overstated. Cyberthreats and attacks are constant, and their sophistication continues to evolve. One vital component in the battle against these threats is network visibility. This blog explores what network visibility is, what it does, how it contributes to network detection and response (NDR), and why it is essential for overall security.

What Is Network Visibility?

Network visibility, in simple terms, refers to the ability to see and understand the traffic and activities on a computer network. It involves gathering and analyzing data from various points within the network to provide a comprehensive and real-time view of network traffic, devices, and their interactions.

What Does Network Visibility Do?

Network visibility serves several key functions, as outlined below:

Key Function Why It’s Important
Traffic monitoring:
Network visibility solutions capture and analyze network traffic, including data packets, to understand what is happening on the network. This involves inspecting the contents of network packets to gain insights into the data being transmitted.
Without traffic monitoring, organizations lack visibility into what is happening on their network, making it difficult to detect and respond to security threats, monitor network performance, or ensure the proper functioning of network services.
Device and user tracking:
Network security visibility tools help to identify and track devices and users on the network. This is critical for network management, troubleshooting, and security.
Failing to track devices and users on the network can lead to unauthorized access, compromised security, and difficulties in pinpointing the sources of network issues or breaches.
Anomaly detection:
By continuously monitoring network traffic, network visibility solutions can detect unusual patterns or behaviors that might indicate a security threat or operational issue.
Without anomaly detection, organizations may overlook subtle and evolving threats that deviate from known attack patterns, leaving them vulnerable to undetected security breaches.
Forensics and investigation:
In the event of a security incident, network visibility data provides valuable information for post-incident analysis and forensic investigations, helping organizations to understand the scope and impact of an attack.
Network visibility data is invaluable for post-incident analysis, providing insights into the scope and impact of an attack. It aids in understanding the attack’s tactics and assists in developing measures to prevent future breaches. It also helps in maintaining compliance with incident reporting requirements.

How Does Network Visibility Help NDR?

NDR is a critical component of modern cybersecurity. It involves the identification and response to threats within a network. Network visibility plays a pivotal role in NDR in the following ways:

What It Is Why It Matters
Early threat detection:
Network visibility tools provide the data needed to detect threats at an early stage. By monitoring all network traffic, they can identify suspicious activities, anomalies, and known threat indicators.
Without early threat detection, security incidents can go unnoticed until they reach an advanced stage. This delay can result in significant damage, data breaches, and costly recovery efforts.
Lateral movement detection:
In the context of NDR, understanding how threats move within the network is crucial. Network visibility tools can reveal signs of lateral movement by tracking the paths attackers take through the network.
Failing to detect lateral movement within the network allows attackers to navigate freely and stealthily, making it challenging to contain and eradicate threats. This can result in prolonged breaches and a compromised security posture.
Behavioral analysis:
Network visibility enables behavioral analysis, which can uncover deviations from normal network behavior. This is vital for spotting unknown or evolving threats.
Neglecting behavioral analysis can lead to an inability to recognize subtle or novel threats that don’t fit known attack patterns. Such threats can persist undetected and wreak havoc on the network.
Data for incident response:
When an incident occurs, network visibility data is invaluable for understanding the attack’s scope and impact and the steps taken by the attacker. This information is essential for effective incident response and recovery.
In the absence of comprehensive data for incident response, organizations may struggle to understand the full extent of a security incident, making it challenging to remediate effectively. This can result in prolonged downtime, data loss, and reputational damage.

Why Is Network Visibility Important for Security?

Network visibility is paramount for network security for several reasons, including the following:

What the Benefit Is Why It Matters
Proactive threat detection:
Network visibility enables organizations to proactively identify and respond to security threats before they escalate, minimizing potential damage.
Without proactive threat detection, organizations are more vulnerable to advanced and damaging security incidents. These incidents can result in data breaches, financial losses, and reputational damage.
Reduced dwell time:
Dwell time, the duration between a breach and its discovery, is a critical metric in cybersecurity. Network visibility helps reduce dwell time by swiftly detecting and responding to threats.
Extended dwell time allows attackers to remain undetected and maintain access to the network for prolonged periods. This can result in severe data breaches, data theft, and the compromise of sensitive information.
Comprehensive defense:
To effectively defend against threats, organizations need a complete view of their network. Network visibility provides this comprehensive view, allowing security teams to identify both known and unknown threats.
Inadequate visibility into the network leaves security teams blind to a wide range of threats, including those that do not conform to known attack patterns. This leads to an incomplete defense and leaves vulnerabilities unaddressed.
Compliance and reporting:
Many regulations and compliance standards require organizations to maintain network visibility for auditing and reporting purposes, ensuring they adhere to security standards.
Failing to meet compliance requirements can result in legal consequences, fines, and reputational damage. It can also hinder an organization’s ability to demonstrate its commitment to security.
Incident response and recovery:
When a security incident occurs, the information provided by network visibility tools is indispensable for understanding the incident, minimizing damage, and preventing future attacks.
In the absence of network visibility data, incident response and recovery efforts become challenging, leading to longer downtime, data loss, and a prolonged impact on operations.

In conclusion, network visibility is a cornerstone of modern cybersecurity. It empowers organizations to proactively detect and respond to threats, reduce dwell time, and maintain compliance with security standards. By providing a comprehensive view of network activities, network visibility significantly enhances the effectiveness of NDR, making it an essential component of any organization’s security strategy.

How OCI Helps

Together, NETSCOUT’s Omnis Cyber Intelligence (OCI) and Omnis CyberStream make a powerful cybersecurity platform that focuses on providing a clear view of network activity, detecting threats, and responding effectively. This platform uses deep-packet inspection (DPI) as its foundation. It not only offers excellent visibility at the network’s outer boundaries (where it looks at traffic going in and out) but also expands to provide an affordable way to see what’s happening within the network itself, including in multicloud and hybrid cloud environments. This often-underestimated internal traffic visibility is vital because the lack of internal traffic monitoring not only weakens an organization’s ability to detect and respond to a wide range of threats but also elevates the risk of insider threats, potentially leading to severe security breaches and data compromise.

This cybersecurity platform also has advanced threat analytics, including recognizing known threat indicators of compromise (IOCs), vulnerable protocols, and unusual behavior, thanks to Omnis CyberStream’s network packet capture. Moreover, it seamlessly works with other security tools such as SIEM, SOAR, and XDR to enhance how it handles security incidents. In a world where cyberthreats are always evolving, OCI empowers organizations to protect their networks and data effectively, making them more secure and less vulnerable.

Learn more about NETSCOUT’s Visibility Without Borders platform and Omnis CyberStream and Omnis Cyber Intelligence.